Deep in the suburbs of Staten Island, the Wu-Tang Clan “formed like Voltron” last night for a hometown celebration of their landmark album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). The show was part of the Red Bull Music Academy World Tour, a five-part series highlighting each of the New York boroughs’ most iconic hip hop albums. On Staten Island, Wu-Tang was the obvious choice. It all went down at the Eve Ultra Lounge, nestled in a residential and industrial area along the island’s south shore.
“You can’t really describe the feeling,” Ghostface Killah told Rolling Stone backstage. “This is your hometown, and you love to perform in front of the people. I just hope that the microphone is right and the music is sounding alive, because we feel alive.” It was clear many of these loyal fans had been waiting a long time to see their heroes play a small club in the borough that Wu-Tang put on the musical map.
“It’s a beautiful thing to come back home to rock in your city,” Raekwon said in the dressing room. “I’m excited. I am looking at it as a big show. I’m blessed, I am humbled by the moment… This is where we inherited our skill. Every piece of soil on Staten Island is part of where we are at now. Shoalin is forever the home for us.”
One by one the attending members took the stage – Masta Killa, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, U-God, Cappadonna and GZA – warming things up with solo classics like “Ice Cream,” “Wu-Gambinos” and “Nutmeg.” “That was just an appetizer,” Ghostface Killah shouted before motoring through the 36 Chambers record with a trifecta of classics, “Bring da Ruckus,” “Da Mystery of Chessboxin'” and “Clan in da Front.” Later, they got into “Protect Ya Neck,” “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit” and “C.R.E.A.M.” With the remaining members absent from the show, Wu enlisted the help of their fans to take Method Man’s part and the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s verse on “Protect Ya Neck.” The spirit of community was omnipresent.
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In 1998, Ol’ Dirty Bastard famously crashed the stage at the Grammys and said, “Wu-Tang is for the children.” That’s never been truer than last night, when the group announced their partnership with the Children’s Literacy Society. “It’s all about giving grace back to these kids,” Raekwon told Rolling Stone. “We see so much potential. The talent is in them – we just gotta find it. If there is anything I love more than my family, it’s to see people from Staten Island get an opportunity,” he said.
“I know y’all don’t always see us on Staten Island, but we love this muthafuckin’ town,” Raekwon told the crowd. “We take this Shaolin all over world with us. They respect our town – believe that shit.” The feeling last night was a killer reminder that Wu-Tang is forever.